Roman emperor, A. D. 305-311. GALERIUS VALERIUS MAXIMIANUS, born near Sardica in Dacia, was the son of a shepherd, and in early life followed the humble calling of his parent. Hence he is frequently designated in history by the epithet Armentarius,
although this must be regarded rather as a familiar than as a formal appellation, since it nowhere appears upon any public monument. Having served in the wars of Aurelian and Probus, he passed through all the inferior grades of military rank in succession, with such distinguished reputation, that when Diocletian remodelled the constitution of the empire [DIOCLETIANUS, p. 1012], he was chosen along with Constantius Chlorus, in A. D. 292, to discharge the dignified but arduous duties of a Caesar, was adopted by the elder emperor, whose daughter Valeria he received in marriage, was permitted to participate in the title of Jovius,
and was entrusted with the command of Illyria and Thrace. In A. D. 297 he undertook an expedition against the Persian monarch Narses, and after his failure was treated with the most insulting harshness by his father-in-law.
But having fully redeemed his credit by the glorious issue of the second campaign [DIOCLETIANUS, p. 1012], he from this time forward assumed a more haughty bearing, which gradually took the form of arrogant dictation, as the bodily health and mental energies of his superior gradually sunk under the pressure of complicated anxieties. Upon the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian (A. D. 305), an event which is said to have been hastened, if not caused, by his intrigues and threats, Galerius having succeeded in nominating two creatures of his own, Daza and Severus [MAXIMINUS II.; SEVERUS], to the posts of Caesars, now vacant in consequence of the elevation of himself and Constantius to the higher rank of Augusti, began to look forward with confidence to the period when the death of his colleague should leave him sole master of the world.
But these hopes were destined to be signally frustrated.
The news of the decease of Chlorus was accompanied by the intelligence that the troops had enthusiastically proffered their allegiance to his son. Galerius, filled with disappointment and rage, found himself in no condition to resist, and although he refused to concede a higher title than that of Caesar
to Constantine, was obliged virtually to resign all claim to the sovereignty of Gaul and Britain.
This mortification was followed by the more formidable series of disasters occasioned by the usurpation of Maxentius which led to the destruction of Severus, to the disgrace of Galerius himself, after a most calamitous campaign, and thus to the loss of Italy and Africa [MAXENTIUS], A. D. 307. From this time forward, however, his life passed more tranquilly, for having supplied the place of Severus by his old friend and comrade Licinius [LICINIUS], he seems to have abandoned those schemes of extravagant ambition once so eagerly cherished, and to have devoted his attention to great works of public utility, the draining of lakes and the clearing of forests, until cut off in A. D. 311, by the same terrible disease which is said to have terminated the existence of Sulla and of Herod Agrippa.
Of a haughty and ungovernable temper, cruel to his enemies, ungrateful to his benefactors, a stranger to all the arts which soften the heart or refine the intellect, the character of this prince presents nothing to admire, except the valour of a fearless soldier and the skill of an accomplished general.
The blackest shade upon his memory is thrown by his pitiless persecution of the Christians, whom he ever regarded with rancorous hostility, instigated, we are told, by the furious bigotry of his mother, an ardent cultivator of some of the darker rites of the ancient faith.
The fatal ordinance of Diocletian, which for so many years deluged the world with innocent blood, is said to have been extorted by the pertinacious violence of Galerius, whose tardy repentance expressed in the famous edict of toleration published immediately before his death, made but poor amends for the amount of misery which he had deliberately caused.
Galerius, by his first wife, whose name is unknown, and whom he was required to repudiate when created Caesar, had one daughter, who was married to Maxentius; by his second, Galeria Valeria, the daughter of Diocletian, he had no children. [VALERIA.]
Zosim. 2.8, 10, 11 ; Zonar. 12.32
; Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 8.5
, Vit. Constant.
18; Auctor. de Mort. Persec.
18, &c., 33, &c.; Amm. Marc. 14.11.10
; Victor, de Caes.
39, 40, Epit.
39, 40; Eutrop. 9.15
; Ores. 7.26, 28; Jornandes, de Rebus Get.
21; Fragments published by Valesius at the end of his ed. of Amm. Marc. § 3.